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Iranian Reformist: Clinton More Likely to Preserve Nuclear Agreement

November 7, 2016
Aida Ghajar
7 min read
Some in Iran fear Trump may not be committed to the 2015 nuclear accord
Some in Iran fear Trump may not be committed to the 2015 nuclear accord
A secretary of state, Hillary Clinton helped set up crippling sanctions against Iran
A secretary of state, Hillary Clinton helped set up crippling sanctions against Iran
Mohammad-Sadegh Javadi Hesar with reformist politician Mehdi Karroubi
Mohammad-Sadegh Javadi Hesar with reformist politician Mehdi Karroubi

With just a day to go until US presidential elections, worldwide speculation about the winner’s potential impact on global affairs is at its most heated. The race is close. Hillary Clinton’s term as US secretary of state under Barack Obama has proved controversial, while Donald Trump has no policy record to speak of.

Iranians have long watched US politics closely, although Iranian politicians don’t often comment about it publicly. Some anti-American hardliners say there is no difference between Clinton and Trump. President Hassan Rouhani has said that Americans must choose between “bad and worse.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has implicitly expressed his appreciation of Trump’s supposed straight talking. But there is still no consensus about whether the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate would be better for Iran. While Iran’s leaders, from the Shah to Khamenei, have sometimes seen Republican candidates as being more predictable than Democrats, hardly anyone thinks Trump is predictable.

To get an Iranian reformist’s view on the election, IranWire spoke to journalist Mohammad-Sadegh Javadi Hesar, a leading member of the reformist National Trust Party. The party is best known for its association with Mehdi Karroubi, who ran as its candidate in the 2009 presidential elections before being arrested and placed under indefinite house arrest in 2011. Javadi Hesar himself was arrested in the aftermath of the elections and spent some time in detention.


What do you predict will happen to US-Iran relations after the elections?

Serious changes cannot happen fast. The makeup of international relations, the US Congress, and the American government is such that, for any decision to take effect, a long process must take place. I believe that one group in Iran would welcome a hostile or confrontational attitude towards Iran from the US. They are the same group that has said that America cannot be trusted and that they do not want our friendship. If the US does adopt a more aggressive policy, the atmosphere in Iran will gravitate towards confrontation and hostility towards America, both domestically and in the wider Middle East.

Mr. Trump is more aggressive and reckless. His discourse is that the United States has been weakened and has lost its grandeur. Trump wants to reestablish this lost grandeur. This attitude will, at the very least, help to ignite a diplomatic battle and a cold war in the region. It will increase tensions inside Iran as well. This will not benefit Iran because it will impede a democratic discourse inside the country.

Recently Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has spoken positively about some of Trump’s remarks. Do you see any benefits for Iran if Trump gets elected?

I call Trump’s discourse a democratic incarnation of ISIS. It is not based on wisdom, foresight and democratic conduct. This attitude could motivate anti-American sentiments, both in Iran and around the world. Those who have argued for years that America is not what appears to be, that an ugly truth hides behind its pretty façade, will feel justified. They will become more obstinate and they will use [a Trump presidency] for propaganda purposes. This, in turn, will marginalize those inside Iran who hold opposition views and will lead to a more closed atmosphere. It could even encourage warmongering [in Iran] and intensify the security environment.

Of course, I do not believe that the Supreme Leader’s remarks should be interpreted this way. His remarks are about the nature of America as described by Trump. The Supreme Leader and Trump agree on their description of the United States but this does not mean that he supports Trump’s positions.

Some say that Hillary Clinton’s policies will not be pacifistic, and that her warm relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia will cause her to challenge Iran.

No party in the US can decide American interactions with the world or with the Middle East all by itself. US Middle East policy is shaped by the president, but also by Congress. Clinton has a proper diplomatic approach and her behavior on the international scene is trustworthier. Since Mrs. Clinton’s policies are geared toward diplomacy and conform more to international conventions, they can inspire both confidence and a lack of confidence.

In my view, Mrs. Clinton is preferable to Trump only because of the record and the principles of the Democratic Party. In the international arena, and especially in the Middle East, the Democratic Party has been more pacifistic and it has reduced tensions whenever it has been able to. So in this respect, her victory would inspire hope. Personally, I believe that in certain instances the policies of the Democrats and the Republicans are no different.

A case in point is Israel. The US Congress, the Senate, and the Zionist lobby in the US have taken this so far that it has become a matter of prestige. They cannot let go of it easily. The two candidates might adopt different tactics where Israel is concerned, but both would seek to bolster Israel in the region.

In recent years, President Barack Obama has followed a different policy towards Israel. Israel, which is disappointed that it no longer enjoys the unquestioned support of the US, has moved towards improving its relations with Arab countries. Haven’t US-Israeli relations changed, especially following the nuclear agreement (JCPOA)?

They have changed, but the Americans have always supported Israel to safeguard their own interests. This support was not for Israel’s sake only but for guarding their own interests and the balance of power. Even now, if the Americans feel that guarding their own interests might annoy Israel a little, they would not care. Of course, there have been attempts to soothe Israel as well. For example, the US Congress directly invited the Israeli prime minister to deliver a speech. This was in blatant confrontation with Obama’s policies.

You said that Trump’s policies are aggressive while Clinton is for diplomacy. Would this make a difference in, say, the anti-ISIS coalitions?

There are two views about ISIS and other terrorist groups in the region. Some believe that these groups were directly created by the US, but that, as with Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, the Americans lost control of them. This group believes that ISIS was created by the US and that whether it supports them or not depends on how the US wants to protect its interests in the region.

Another view is that some countries in the region, led by Saudi Arabia and with the approval of the US, created these terrorist groups to benefit Saudi Arabia and their Middle Eastern allies, and to destroy the alliance between Iran and countries like Iraq and Syria.

The concern these two views have in common is this: For how long can groups such as ISIS in Iraq and Syria serve the interests of the US and its regional partners? We cannot confidently answer the question because we do not have accurate information about was goes on behind the scenes, but it seems that, regardless of whether Trump wins or Clinton wins, there will be a certain definition of American national interests that the president cannot influence so much. We have to wait and see how regional equations affect US policies.

So will American policies in the Middle East change if Clinton is elected?

A diplomatic approach would require that, once the territorial integrity of Iraq is officially recognized, the complete elimination of ISIS should be on the agenda. And in Syria, if they agree that a transitional government can be formed with Bashar al-Assad, they must come to an agreement with his supporters. In any case, I believe that considering Clinton’s diplomatic record as secretary of state, the United States would be more committed to non-belligerent norms and would move towards reducing tensions.

In your view, it seems, one candidate is for war and the other is for negotiations. It seems that you prefer that Clinton should win. Do you think that her election would benefit Iran?

The most important thing for Iran if Clinton is elected is her support, and her party’s support, for the implementation of the JCPOA and the carrying out of related American obligations. If Clinton wins, perhaps the Americans will show more commitment to implementing JCPOA because a Democratic administration signed the agreement. It is only logical that they would feel more duty-bound towards JCPOA and would be less critical toward it than the Republicans are. Evidence shows that the Republicans would have prevented JCPOA from going forward if they could have. With Clinton as president, there is more hope that JCPOA would go forward.



Trump Could Mean War, Says Former Diplomat

November 6, 2016
Shima Shahrabi
7 min read
Trump Could Mean War, Says Former Diplomat